Brain-zip-head The mental health reviews are done, now it’s delivering services..

The expectations in the mental health sector are high. The past 12-months have seen the talk – reviews, reforms, plans and promises – grow louder and the will for change in political circles stronger. While the rhetoric has not vastly changed, the strategy has.

Brain-zip-head160While politicians continue to say consumers must be at the centre of the mental health system, the Federal Government’s latest plans go some way to putting them there if all the cogs turn together.

Primary Health Networks will be tasked to identify the services required in the various local areas in their catchment and use the $350m the Federal Government will redirect to them to commission them.
Prime Minister Turnbull and Health Minister Ley flagged a fifth national mental health plan when the reforms had a chance to bed down.

It would require, they said, meaningful planning with the states to “ensure smooth integration of these new reforms and help provide a better pathway between the State-based, acute mental health system and the Federally-funded primary mental health system.”

In December, just a week after the federal announcement and a few days after the new WA Mental Health Act came into force, the long-awaited release of the WA Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015-2025: Better Choices Better Lives was released.

It is a detailed and ambitious document that takes the rhetoric of consumer-centric care and transforms it into a stepped reform package that will reduce the number of acute beds in favour of funded community beds.

Here, we have asked Dr Elizabeth Moore, Chair of the WA branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and Mr Adrian Munro, operations manager of NFP service provider Richmond Wellbeing to offer their perceptions.

From a political perspective, the real difficulty lies in not having a sound plan but with a State Treasury that has had the stuffing knocked out of it.

Better Choices. Better Lives was developed by the Mental Health Commission and the former Drug and Alcohol Office with input from just about everyone who has an interest in seeing improvements in mental health care. Commissioner Tim Marney, though, is a realist who knows exactly how government works – and how reality can bite.

Take the latest political machinations that affect the Mental Health Minister Helen Morton.

The plan outlines the investment required “to achieve the optimal mix and level of mental health, alcohol and other drug services in the short (by the end of 2017), medium (by the end of 2020) and long term (by the end of 2025) to best meet the identified needs of the population.”

The rub is, however, while it pinpoints the types and levels of services required, it “does not predetermine who should fund or provide them. Implementation will be subject to the State’s normal budgetary processes and, as is the case with current services, will require input from the private and not-for-profit sectors and the Commonwealth.”

All will be revealed at Budget time in May.


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